Sunday, April 27, 2014

Keeping Your Cool

The cooler temperatures that I've experienced in northern Florida and Southern Georgia since I moved aboard in December seems to have given way to more regular warmer temperatures. Day time temperatures are now regularly in the 80's and some 90's F.  And since boat hulls are not terribly well insulated (that 1/8 inch of fiberglass core just doesn't seem to help much), a closed up boat can get pretty warm.

Opening hatches can provide a breeze through the boat if the breeze is coming from the front of the boat, but when you are in a marina this doesn't tend to be the case very often. And to make things worse, big neighbor boats can block much of the breeze you could get if it were blowing from either side of the boat. So, when you are at a marina and plugged into shore power, air conditioning tends to be the go-to solution for cooling down a boat.  Of course, this tends to be expensive if the marina meters and charges for electrical use.

Of course, as the heat arrived the air conditioner in one of my neighbor's boats went out.  Being a monohull, all the opening hatches on his boat point upward and he was having a hard time getting airflow into the boat.  I found all of this out when he was trying to rig up a small nylon scoop (it looked like a very small spinnaker) to try and catch the breeze.  The scoop he had is designed to rig on a halyard and pretty much only directs air in that is coming from the front of the boat.

When I purchased my boat, it came with two Breeze Boosters for the hatches that I had yet to try.  These devices stand up on their own so they can be turned into the breeze.  I let my neighbor borrow one, and after a quick Google search, we figured out how to set them up.  He was able to turn it into the breeze that was blowing across the beam of the boat (from side to side) and get air flowing into the boat.  He said it made quite a difference and he is now thinking of getting some for himself.

A couple days after getting his AC fixed, it was a sunny day with a decent breeze blowing across the beam of the boat and the interior temperature on my boat was in the mid 80'sF and rising, so I decided to deploy the boosters myself.  Placing one on each of the forward berth hatches and opening the salon door into the cockpit gave a nice breeze through the boat.  It dropped the temperature in the boat down around or just below 80F and with air moving it felt much more comfortable.

So far, I have to say I'm impressed with these things.  Since they don't need support at the top, they seem to work well for catamarans as well as monohulls and even powerboats.  I even managed to get them working around the "safety bars" that surround my hatches...although it does somewhat limit the rotation options.  The day I used them the temps were in the upper 80's outside, and my air conditioner stayed off all day.  I consider that a win.  I'm glad I have them.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Go Climb A Mast

When I was last in Denver, I picked up a rock climbing harness in lieu of a Bosuns chair so I could climb the mast.  At that time I mentioned I had a couple lights that needed to be checked out.  The weather finally improved this week so it was time to go check on those lights.

What I used to climb the mast.

I tried finding some people at the docks that would help winch me up, but it seemed most people decided to go take advantage of the nice weather (I can't blame them) and I was unable to find help. So, I decided to give climbing with ascenders a try.

I constructed a couple foot loops out of some line I had with bowline loops tied to the ends (see...those knots come in handy) and tied them to one ascender.  The climbing harness was attached to the other ascender with a carabiner.  Since I've never done this before, I decided I would just try getting up to the deck light that is about 1/3 of the way up the mast.

My boat is rigged with a halyard for a spinnaker, and that was the line I decided to use.  I rigged the halyard so I could pull it tight and then attached the ascenders to the line.  I put on the climbing harness, hooked the bag containing my tools and a tube of dielectric grease to one of the gear loops, and attached the harness to the topmost ascender. It didn't take very long to figure out that I had made the leg loops a little too long, so I retied the bowline loops (twice) in the process of getting things where it seemed comfortable.

Then began the long process of inching my way up the line.  I stood up in the leg loops, slid the upper ascender up the rope, sat back in the harness and slid the foot loop ascender up.  After doing this once or twice, I stopped and just hung there for a bit.  Figured when I was only a couple feet above the deck was a good time to make sure everything would indeed hold.  A couple minutes looking like I was a new attachment to the boat and I continued my trek up the mast.

After a little time doing my impression of an inchworm, I was at the deck light.  I released the light clips and it didn't take much time to figure out the problem with the light.  Nope, not a burned out light bulb or bad connection...well...guess I could call it a bad connection...a wire corroded through is bad, right?  Of course, I didn't have crimp on terminals or crimpers with me (I didn't know what type of connection I would find on the back of the bulb), so no way I could fix it while I was up there.  Oh well, at least now I know what the problem is...and I also know I can climb the mast by myself if I ever need to.

I also learned that people spend way too much money on gym memberships.  For the money spent, you could probably get a sailboat and have all the exercise equipment you need.  Or just go hang out at a marina and you could probably find someone to pay you to exercise...while fixing their boat.

Sorry I didn't get any pictures of the climb...maybe next time...when I can get someone to help winch me up the mast.  In my earlier post about getting the harness, someone suggested that the climbing harnesses are not very comfortable...honestly I didn't feel uncomfortable during all of this, but that may have something to do with being able to distribute weight into the foot loops or just the adrenaline of the whole thing.  I did feel secure in the harness...and that was the primary reason I chose the harness over a chair.

In any case, in the next few days I'll need to go back up the mast with the right tools and see if I can get the deck light working and well as make my way the rest of the way up to check on the anchor light.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Paths of Destruction

With all this recent thought about the dreaded "H" season, complying with my insurance requirements, and moving the boat, I was doing a little research on the paths and landfall locations of hurricanes along the eastern U.S. seaboard.  I came across an interesting site from NOAA that you might find interesting:

It is a searchable database of hurricane tracks and strengths displayed on a map.  You can search by a variety of parameters (the image above was a search of the West Atlantic Basin from 2008 to 2012).  Something entertaining to play with while the weather continues to be cold, rainy, and windy outside.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Map Lines and Deadlines

Sorry I haven't been posting much in recent days.  When I haven't been working my day job, I've been trying to solve a problem I have.

According to my current insurance I need to be north of Cape Hatteras by the beginning of the dreaded "H" (hurricane) season.  This season runs from June 1 to November 1.  Originally, we didn't think this would be an issue since we wanted to see the U.S. East coast and this bigger restriction fit with our plans.  Of course getting the first house ready to sell took much more time than we anticipated and some other things have conspired to throw a wrench in the works.

The best option for moving the boat north would be to make a few overnight hops "on the outside" (going up the coast instead of the ICW).  Unfortunately, my wife is busy and can't come help so I'm by myself in Georgia and needing to move the boat pretty far up the coast in a month and a half.  Given my current level of experience, I don't think it would be wise for me to do an overnight passage alone.  This leaves me needing to find a deckhand to make the trip(s).

Right now I think I have a friend coming to help me move the boat from Brunswick to Charleston or so.  From there, I still need to figure out the best option for continuing the trek north.  I thought offering the chance to spend some time on a boat with room and board paid for in exchange for a minimum amount of help would entice some of my friends, but apparently not.  Maybe I'm not selling it does "come spend a few days basking in the sun on catamaran instead of shoveling that snow back home" sound?

I also need to figure out my "final destination".  I'm thinking somewhere in the Chesapeake.  I'd like to find a place that is reasonably priced and near "services" so I can get some work done that I simply cannot handle (I'm somewhat sewing and welding challenged).  While Annapolis is probably an excellent location for everything sailboat repair, I think that location usually comes with a high price tag.

So, I have been spending a lot of time looking through Active Captain, checking for marinas and services and their prices and trying to come up with a loose plan for how to get north of our insurance line before the deadline.

On a semi-related note, part of the reason my wife cannot come down right now is good news in that she will be closing the sale on her father's house.  Apparently the housing market is pretty good in Denver right now, at least for smaller homes.  We had listed the house at what we thought was a fair price for the renewed condition and in less than a week we had numerous offers and were under contract for over asking price.  We really need to get our house on the market soon.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Another Impeller!

In my last post I mentioned that I've been focusing my recent attention on my dinghy (a.k.a. family car).  While I work on the registration and debate the best way to fix the leaks in the Caribe RIB, I figured I would look over the motor and see if I can get it running.

The motor is a 15 hp, 2-stroke Yamaha engine.  Using a manual I found online (the previous owner didn't leave me the hard copy), I opened it up and went through all the basic checks to make sure the controls work and it had at least a reasonable potential to start.  While mounted on the storage mount, I hooked up the gas tank and a clamp-on adapter to provide fresh water for cooling.

It took a couple tries, but the motor did fire up.  Of course, the stream of cooling water failed to appear from the appropriate hole in the motor housing where it is supposed to be found.  Since running the engine without cooling water is very bad, I quickly shut down the engine.  With my recent impeller experience, I figure there is a very good chance that this is the problem.  Now, where do they hide the water pump on an outboard motor?

Looking through the manual, I found that the water pump is actually located in the lower end of the motor on the drive shaft.  I guess it makes sense, but it certainly isn't a convenient location for checking the impeller. Guess I will need to disassemble the engine just to check and see if my suspicions are correct.  As I've learned to do, I consult Google and YouTube for additional information on the process and I found this video that demonstrates the general process.

A little more complicated than replacing the impellers on the inboard engines, but it doesn't seem too bad. I locate the impeller (actually a kit, more on that below) at a local store and begin the process of checking and changing the impeller.

Motor on the cockpit table...where else would you work on it?

I remove the lower unit containing the transmission and the water pump housing just like it shows in the video (except I disconnected the transmission linkage before I removed the other bolts).  I disassemble the water pump and viola, the culprit of my lack of cooling water is found.  Another destroyed impeller.  As I've learned, it is very important to locate all the pieces of the impeller and I dig through the passages and am able to find enough rubber bits to account for the entire thing.

Disassembled pump, another destroyed impeller found.

Yamaha did something kind of clever with the pump.  Instead of just providing the impeller, they provide a kit that contains not only the impeller, but also replacement walls for the housing and a few other bits so you can rebuild the water pump and all of the working surfaces are new.  They do this with simple stamped metal parts so the entire kit costs about the same amount as a single impeller for my Westerbeke engines.

New shiny pump walls.

With a refurbished pump, I reassembled the motor.  I did check the lower unit (transmission) oil before reassembly.  With everything back together, I put the motor on the storage mount, hooked everything back up and gave it a try.  As soon as the motor fired, a good stream of water came shooting out of the motor housing just like it was supposed to. Another impeller problem solved.

Of course the engine only ran for a minute or so and then sputtered to a stop.  I probably need to get some fresh gasoline, but at least now I know the motor does run and seems to be in better condition than I suspected might be the case.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The "Car"

Living in a house on land, you generally have a car (or two....or three).  When your house is a boat floating on water, you have a dinghy or tender...and they are often referred to as the family car.  You can probably imagine that a dingy is a handy thing to have.  When we purchased our Leopard 38, it came with a rigid inflatable dinghy and a motor.

The "car" hanging on the back of the "house".

The dinghy wasn't in the greatest shape.  In particular it has a rather ugly patch that slowly leaks and the tube fabric is looking rather worn and...well you may have seen some of the other issues in this post.  And I have no idea what condition the motor is in.  So I've been debating how much more money I should invest in the dinghy or if I should just replace it.  I hate just throwing things away, but I also don't want to throw good money after bad. After some mental debate, I decided I would try to resurrect the dinghy.

I'm not really worried about how "ugly" it is (after all, if someone wants to steal a dinghy, do they want the shiny new one or the faded and worn one with patches...right?), I just want it to stay afloat without having to pump it back up while we are using it. Someone recommended a product that is somewhat similar to automotive fix-a-flat that sounds like it might help seal up any leaks in the inflatable I might give that a try.  I was also talking with a guy that suggested that, particularly since we will have dogs, that we find or make dinghy "chaps" for the tubes using Sunbrella or similar fabric.  This would protect the tubes from the sun, chafing, and dog claws.

But first, since the boat will have a motor on it, we should probably register it.  Just like you have a license and registration for your car, most U.S. states require a registration for any boat that has a motor on it (this isn't an issue once you get out of the U.S.).  And just like your car, most states will recognize a registration from another state on a temporary basis. There seems to be a bit of debate on the internet over the need to register if it is strictly being used as a tender (only to go from ship directly to shore with no side excursions).  Since we will be in the U.S. for at least a little while, and we would like to use it more like the car to do a bit of sightseeing and other trips without having to "drive the house around", it seems to make sense for us to register it.

We have a bit of a dilemma, though.  You see, I technically live in Colorado right now but the dinghy will likely never be in Colorado so it doesn't make sense to register it there.  Of course, we will also be rather transient and most places seem to want a permanent mailing address and some require it to be in their state.  I don't think they'll accept "s/v Rover, Somewhere in the Atlantic, USA (sometimes)".   Of course, in a bit of irony, many states also want you to register your boat and/or dinghy if you are in their state for a given period of time (we don't intend to hang out in any one place that long).  This time seems to vary from 50 to 180 days depending on the state and is the what they use to determine your area of "primary use".  So you could easily be considered the area of primary use by several states and therefore require multiple registrations.  But without a mailing address....well, you get the idea.  It can make the head spin.

I think for now I'll try registering my dinghy in Georgia.  I'm at least here now and their registration fees don't seem too bad.  Or maybe I'll need to get one of those James Bond rotating license plate gizmos for the dinghy so I can register it everywhere as I go....yeah, right.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Look Ma, It Really IS A Sailboat

Other than a very brief period during the sea trial, about a 1 minute stint in the ICW near Palm Coast, and our brief period before the engine impeller imploded on our trip up to Brunswick, we never have really had a chance to actually sail our Leopard 38. Something I remedied this past Friday.

It was supposed to be good sailing weather with blue skies and winds around 15 knots out of the southwest.  I just couldn't pass that up.  Since my wife is not around to go sailing with me, I conned Doug on s/v Pieridae, a friend I made here at the docks in Brunswick, to go with me to do a little actual sailing.

We left the docks around 10:30am and motored down the East River to "the bridge".  Once we made it under the bridge, we raised the sails and shut down the engines.  There is just something about a sailboat cruising along without the drone of the engines in the background.  It was nice.

The Brunswick Sidney Lanier Bridge
We sailed down the St. Simons sound on a nice broad reach with the boat making between 5 and 7 knots.

St. Simons Sound

It was grueling work...but someone had to do it. ;-)

A "rough" day as the captain

We went through the sound, past St. Simons Lighthouse and through the inlet out to the Atlantic Ocean.

The Atlantic with sails unfurled

It was a beautiful sail.  A few times we were running with the wind dead at our backs and we managed to keep the boat wing-on-wing for a little while (for my readers not savvy on sailing, this is where the wind is behind you and you have the Mainsail off to one side and the Jib or Genoa off to the other so the wind can "push" on both sails)

Sailing win-on-wing

Of course, since the wind was behind us leaving, it was on our nose as we came back.  We spent some time beating (tacking) back into the inlet and past the St. Simons lighthouse.  It had been so long since I really sailed a catamaran, that I screwed up the first couple of tacks and got the boat in irons.  Doug actually suggested we try back-winding the Genoa to help push us through the turn and that is when I remembered that was actually what I was taught to do.  We then had a good amount of practice with that maneuver as we crept our way back into St. Simons sound.

Tacking torward St. Simons Lighthouse

Unfortunately, during our return, both the wind and the outgoing tide conspired against us.  Each tack seemed to produce lower and lower forward movement (referred to as Velocity Made Good) toward our goal.  The points in the zig-zag pattern of our track on the chart plotter kept getting closer and closer together.  Deciding that we needed to get back before dark, we reluctantly fired the engines back up, furled the sails, and motored our way back to the marina.

When we got to the marina, the wind was blowing over 25 knots or so across the docks and that made it fun getting Rover back into her slip.  But with a little help from dockside, we got her safely back home.

Boy it felt good to get the boat out and sail.  I only wish my wife had been here to enjoy the day with me.

And thanks to Doug for being crew and ships photographer on the trip.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

House for Sale - Yay

We (ok, mostly my wife) hit a major milestone yesterday.  We got the first house on the market.  When my wife inherited her fathers house, it had the original 1959 kitchen and bathrooms.  Old oak cabinets, burnt orange Formica counter tops, and no dishwasher. Brown, blue, and red shag carpets, ugly yellow linoleum and even a popcorn ceiling with glitter in it in the great room.  The house was a sight to behold.

Despite troubles with two different handymen, the update of the house is finally complete.  My wife picked out all of the colors and we did some of the work ourselves as well.  I may be a bit biased, but I think she did an absolutely awesome job.  I have no doubt that the house will sell quickly and make someone a very nice home.  What do you think?

Front Elevation
Entry and Great Room
New Kitchen
Main Bath
Main Bath Vanity
2nd Bath Shower
If you happen to know someone that is looking to downsize or looking for a nice starter home in the north Denver metro area, this 850 square foot home plus full basement might be a good option.  New kitchen with new stainless steel appliances and granite, new bathrooms, new carpet, contemporary refinished wood floors and paint, new energy efficient windows, heat and AC, detached over-sized 2 car garage.  I think it really is move-in ready.

And I think my wife should be very proud of the work she has done here.  Hopefully it will help it sell to someone that can appreciate all the work put into it.